Polar Station of the Institute of Geophysics, Polish Academy of Sciences is situated on south Spitsbergen, near the entrance to
Hornsund fjord, on its northern shore, at IsbjÅrnhamna (Polar Bear Bay) on a flat marine terrace, 10 m above sea level.
Poland carries out research on Svalbard as one of the countries that signed the Spitsbergen Treaty - the international agreement setting the status of Spitsbergen archipelago in 1921.
The first big PAN (Polska Akademia Nauk - Polish Academy of Sciences) expedition to Hornsund took place in 1957, when the station was established.
Since 1978, year round expeditions have been organised by the Department for Polar Research, the Institute of Geophysics of the Polish Academy of Sciences. The station has hosted hundreds of people: scientists and technicians from the Polish Academy of Sciences expeditions, researchers from Polish and foreign universities, tourists from cruise ships and yachts as well as occasional visitors (representatives of Norwegian and Russian communities on Svalbard, Polish priests from the Catholic church in Norway). Many people who work at or visit the station return year after year, being under the influence of the incomparable beauty of Hornsund.
The research programme is conducted by a core team composed of 8 persons staying at the station year-round. The exchange usually takes place in the beginning of July. There are also short-term teams resident at the station, such as biologists in summer, glaciologists in early spring, and technical groups fixing buildings and machinery in summer.
In summer, the Polish Polar Station in Hornsund serves as a base for expeditions organised by different research institutions and universities. The old trapper's huts in the area of Hornsund are maintained by Polish groups, and are often used as field stations for specific projects.
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The main building of the station contains 12 one-bed rooms and four larger rooms providing sleeping quarters for 25 persons in total. The main building also contains the kitchen, living room, six laboratories, a radiooperator room, a medical bay, two bathrooms, toilets, and a warehouse for food and equipment. Three diesel generators, running around the clock, are situated in a separate building, 50 m away from the main building; the same building contains the workshop. All buildings are electrically heated. The station is also equipped with additional facilities like boat garages, two houses for geomagnetic measurements, and a separate hut for environment monitoring situated 700 m away at a small lake.
Fresh water is taken in summer time from a nearby lake with a pipeline, while in winter, snow and ice is collected for melting. A modern sewage treatment plant was installed in summer 2001 replacing an old one.
Connection with the world is maintained using Inmarsat B and MiniM as well as an Iridium satellite system installed in summer 2001. They make it possible to conveniently communicate with the station by phone and e-mail. Additionally, the HF radiostation with the signal SPM726 (Polish) and LH7Z (Norwegian) is still used. Radio contact with Svalbard Radio is maintained on 2.3 and 4 MHz. For local communication, VHF radios are used. The station monitors marine emergency channel no. 16 continuously.
Twice a year, the supply ship comes from Poland. In July, the new wintering crew, summer research and technical groups, fuel, and food are transported. With the same ship, the wintering crew from the previous year goes back home to Poland. The remaining supplies for winter are transported to the station in autumn, usually in September.
The summer groups use the same transport. Ships anchor 1-2 km from the shore. Unloading is organised with the use of two tracked amphibias, assisted with inflotable boats.
Pack ice from the Arctic Ocean or ice from calving glaciers may block the entrance to the fjord or access to the shore. Sometimes the ship is forced to wait for better conditions.
Training ship from Merchant Navy Academy in Gdynia, "Horyzont II" on anchor in IsbjÅrnhamna with summer supplies.
Two or three times a year, the station is visited by the priest from Longyearbyen and Polish priests from the Catholic mission in northern Norway. The governor of Svalbard always visits the station just before Christmass, at which time joint prayer is offered at the cross on nearby Wilczekodden.
The station, nicknamed "polar brothers" keeps mailing contacts with "polar sisters" - the northernmost carmelite nuns monastery in Tromso.
When the sun shines around the clock in summer, the vicinity of the station teems with life. Tundra flowers bloom colourfully; numerous birds have their breeding season. Polar foxes and groups of reindeer wander around. Every now and then you can hear the distant roar of a calving Hans Glacier. From late autumn to early summer, polar bears come with the ice pack to Hornsund. In summer most polar bears follow the pack ice north; some stay behind and are regularly seen on local beaches. The number of polar bears noticed near the station oscillates from about 100 to 200 per year.
Other Polish research stations on Spitsbergen
There are other sites regularly occupied by Polish scientists on Spitsbergen. The University of Lublin (UMCS) maintains activity at Calypsobyen, Bellsund, a former coal mine from early 20th century.
The University of Torun owns a hut at KaffiÅyra on the northwest shore.
The University of Poznan keeps its geomorphologists busy at Petuniabukta in distant Isfjorden, while the Jagiellonian University carries out archeological and geographic studies on the southern shore of Hornsund using huts in GÄºshamna and Pallffyodden.
The University of Wroclaw founded a small hut called BaranÃ³wka or Werenhus (Stanislaw Baranowski Scientific Station) (photo). Glaciologists and speleologists from Poland and the Czech Republic are based at Werenhus every summer, working on Werenskiold and other local glaciers and their forefields. Other field base built by Poles is located at Treskellen.